Group hosts second annual business seminar for musicians

For a band, living the dream and facing reality can go hand in hand.

"Once a band is doing well and making money, you can forget, 'Hey, that's income,' " says Brian Powers, who plays in two bands, Lipstick Pistol and Palisades. "Well, Uncle Sam wants his cut, too."

One of the current iPhone commercials shows an aspiring rocker using his phone to put together a band to play Clash classics and attract girls. He tells the iPhone to "Call me Rock God," but maybe he ought to say "Call me a lawyer and an accountant."

Business issues can be as important as nailing a righteous solo, which is why the Lexington Area Music Alliance is holding its second annual band business seminar Saturday at Natasha's Bistro & Bar.

"It's a real difficult balance to be managing artistic creativity and, at the same time, turn that into a business with a bottom line," says Tom Martin, keyboardist for The City and one of the founders of the organization, which is known as LAMA.

LAMA will offer six workshops touching on subjects including legal and financial considerations, marketing your band, group dynamics and effective performance.

This is the second year that the organization has presented the conference, and Martin and Natasha's Bistro co-owner Gene Williams says the event has been streamlined to be more effective. After the business of the daytime sessions, the restaurant will host an evening of music by local acts.

The sessions are designed to answer questions that area musicians might not have known to ask and to direct them to resources they might not know how to obtain.

"It isn't often you get to talk to a lawyer without being charged by the hour," says Powers, who is putting together the legal panel that will address taxes, business organization, copyright and intellectual property in a session called "Lawyers, Bands and Money."

As an example of legal issues that arise, Powers mentioned a band playing a venue and getting paid by check. If one member takes that check and deposits it in his account and then pays his or her fellow musicians, that check went into the one person's account. Therefore, it can look like income at tax time. Knowing how to structure a group as a business can help bands avoid such pitfalls.

Williams says last year's conference hosted not only musicians, but some parents of young artists, who were interested in learning more to help their kids along.

"A lot of people don't know what to do," says Gina Knight, whose daughter, Julia, 15, frequently plays Natasha's and other venues and who recently won several awards from the Tennessee Country & Gospel Music Association and released her first album.

"I am a business person, so I get the business aspect of it," she said. "But it was a great chance to have an open dialogue with like-minded people."

That is one of the major intentions of LAMA and the conference.

"This all came out of the task force Jim Gray had three years ago that Tom Martin headed up on how to make Lexington a music town," Williams said. "It was aimed to get musicians, venues and the vendors that support that — the industry of music — together."

To advance that "music town" agenda, the alliance folks say, it is important to create an active scene in town and one that sends acts around the country to advance Lexington's reputation.

"As venue owners, we see acts come through here every night," Williams says. "They're great — the talent is bubbling up — so we want to support that with education. How traditional is that? You take something wild like rock 'n' roll and say, 'What do we need? Education,' but that's what it is."